What Army Pre-deployment Preparation is.

 

It seems in getting into a deployment, I forgot to say anything about the challenges of preparing for a deployment. Before a family member takes off for a year, it is important to have everything you can think of worked out, the good and the bad. We save certain things, like what to do on R&R for phone topics because they are fun to talk about and don't cause much stress, but other things, like who gets the kids if something should happen to the two of us have to be discussed before he leaves because we are expected to update wills. There is also a handful of ceremonies and briefings that the families are expected to attend. Most people do not realize just how many things the family has to sit through before a deployment happens because half of what is said is classified at the time for the safety of the departing unit and the other half isn't nearly as glorious for the news to follow as the homecomings are. Usually, deployment briefing start at least six months in advance, but this was a rush deployment for us so they started about three months in advance. My husband considers me a lucky wife because we are not part of, what he refers to as, the big army. He always tells me we are “little army,” so we have more leeway with how things are run. I get that. I can call Top by his first name and so does my husband from to time. The downside is that we are little army because of what he does, EOD. EOD does not attract too much attention from the battalions and divisions because they are the “crazy guys” and everyone is just happy as long as they do their job of disabling bombs in country. Generally speaking, there are only around forty five soldiers in the unit and only half are usually married with only about half of them having children. The first time around, my husband and I were part of the married without children, though I was expecting during the deployment. This time around we are part of the “middle families” with two children. This leaves me with about five wives in the same predicament as me and I am sure at least two of them have moved back in with their parents by now for the duration of this deployment. I will find that out when I get back to KY and see who is left.

Anyway, the first pre-deployment meeting was to set up our FRG and meet our new FRG leader who is a new army wife who has yet to go through a deployment. The main point was just to meet all the wives in the unit and try to set up some form of support group, though looking around and seeing that have the wives were moving back home just showed how little of a support group would be left.

The second meeting was to discuss how to handle emergencies. Living in Kentucky means being prepared for tornadoes and ice storms. You have to remember that most of us are not from Kentucky and only about half are from an area where tornadoes are a regular event. To me ice and snow are nothing, but the tornadoes and tornado warnings are a whole new ball game.

There was a third meeting to discuss finances and will preparation, but I got out of that one, claiming a lack of child care and interest because I went through all these meetings about three years ago and they have yet to change.

The next thing in the long step of preparing was to make wills and make sure they matched. Not being in the same country means that there is a much slimmer chance of something happening to both me and my husband that would leave our children orphans, but better safe than sorry. Unfortunately, for me, the last thing I want to think about is something happening to me or my husband before he goes off to a war zone...I know what you are thinking, if he is in a war zone isn't that in your head every day anyway? The answer is yes, but I do not need any reminders of just how dangerous Afghanistan can be. If I think too hard about it, it just makes it so that I can't hold myself together and seriously think about going to Mexico or Canada to keep my husband home, not that he would allow that.

Of all people, I would have expected that the will assistant would know what is and is not good to talk about a few weeks before someone's husband is going to war, but this one did not. It turns out, we never got around to putting my name on the house we own or my husband's name on the van we own. Apparently, this means if one of us outlives the other, they would have to go to probate court to make it so the item in question was only in their name instead of theirs and their in law's names. The assistant then proceeded to tell us the story of a soldier who had deployed to Afghanistan and been killed in action four months into the deployment and how the couple had had everything they owned in both names except his car which the wife had to go to probate court to get. I know I nearly jumped across the table and probably would have if my husband hadn't foreseen my action and held my leg to the chair.

The next reminder in the long list of reminders comes about a week to four days before they leave, the final FRG meeting as an entire unit. This is where we learned the exact dates, our husband's expected R&R dates, their mailing address, times of meeting before they leave and the time of the ceremony for their deployment. I skipped out on the final two harsh reminders that they are leaving, the deployment ceremony and final farewell at the shop.

The deployment ceremony is a bunch of higher ranking soldiers making speeches about when they expect to accomplish during the deployment. The final farewell, as I learned last time, is a bunch of wives crying while there husbands go back and forth from trying to get their gear together, comfort their wife or girlfriend, turn in their keys to the shop, comfort their children, pretend to be confident that this is not the last time they will see us, gather their weapons, and then be told to say their final goodbye and board the bus that will take them to the plane. Remembering the pain of that from the first time through, I said my goodbyes at home, kissed him when he left the van, watched him hug his kids and walk to the shop. Then I got on the road to NH without looking back. I have one more week before I have to go back to dealing with an empty house and no break from two kids and two dogs. Denial sure has been fun.

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